How Does One Go About Getting Published?

I’m about 3/4 of the way finished with a large historical novel. (Probably about 600 pages.) I feel that it’s reasonably good, if not somewhat better than some other historical novels I’ve read. Historical fiction seems to be a hot genre right now, so I believe I might have a slight chance of getting published.

I’ve been looking at advice on the internet, and people have told me to look at Writer’s Digest magazines, but I’m still a little heistant and confused, because I keep seeing conflicting advice.

  1. Should I find an agent? Some suggest just submitting the work directly to publishers, while others insist that you won’t get noticed unless you have an agent.

  2. Should I begin the process now? I have about three months of work left to do on the manuscript.

  3. Does the length of a manuscript affect its chances?

Usuially (to my understanding), agents wont give a lick about you if you’re a first time writer/publishee. You’ll probably have to do it yourself, although you could send it to an agency for a fee, if you really want to (Lots of publishers wont accept unsolicited submissions (not from an agent- Like the bigger ones) but there’s plenty of decent publishers which will.

As for manuscripts, it’s important to submit to to the right publisher (in your case, non-fiction and reference) but each publisher has it’s own submission guidelines, usuially a sample chapter and book outline. Also, response times can be hell, and can go from anywhere in few weeks to 6 months or more.

Lots of publishers don’t like you submitting elsewhere (called simultaneous submissions) but you may be able to get away with it if you’re like me, and you have no respect for the editor/publisher in question (Like if they publish Katie Couric’s cook book). In other words START SUBMITTING NOW -just trying to get published kills off alot of good writers.

A publisher that you’re looking for will probably have a website, but since it’s a historical book, some university presses might be sympathetic.

Good luck. You’ll need it. BUT DON’T be put off by rejections. -Publishers get truckloads of submissions. I wouldn’t give too much to Writer’s Digest magazines. You’d be better of reading the scratches above the stall door.

there are lots of books to tell you how to go about getting published – go to the apprpriate section of a large bookstore, or look up the subject on Amazon or some other site. Every such book I’ve seen covers the topic adequately, and at much greater length than anyone can in a post here.

The problem is, the more I read, the more contradictions I see. I was hoping published authors on the Dope might be able to give some insight.

Wrong. Agents only care about whether they can sell the book. They are always looking for good first time writers, although many are so overwhelmed that they no longer accept new clients.

Never under any circumstances use an agent who charges a fee. Legitimate agents take a percentage of whatever money the author earns.

It’s more true than ever that major publishers will not look at unagented submissions. Smaller presses - and there are many good ones - are more likely to, but a good agent will also know of good small presses that might be right for you.

How does a historical novel equal non-fiction and reference? Even guests are expected to read the posts they are responding to.

This is mostly true, but some publishers do want to see the entire novel not just chapters (usually the first three or 50 pages) and outline. Agents will certainly want to see the whole thing. And in any case, if you get a nibble from the sample they’re not going to want to hear that you haven’t figured out how to finish the book yet. Doing a good ending is the hardest part of any book. Writing beginnings are far simpler. Endings are what separate published from unpublished authors.

What a great attitude. Anyway, simultaneous submissions are a problem with short stories, but not with prospective novels. You can certainly send out your novel (or chapters) to any number of agents or publishers simultaneously. If you get a nibble, then great. And if there is someone you particularly want to hear from, you can write and say that x is interested, could you please tell me if you are as well. Whenever I’ve sought an agent, I’ve always sent out multiple proposals. Worked every time.

Mostly nonsense. A very few university presses do publish fiction, but you’re unlikely to find any who will look at a non-literary first author.

Finally, something I can agree with.

There are two recently published guides to literary agents on Amazon, 2006 Guide To Literary Agents (Guide to Literary Agents), by Kathryn S. Brogan et al. and Jeff Herman’s Guide To Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents, 2006: Who they are! What they want! How to win them over!. Try to find these from a local library first - the specific info becomes obsolete too quickly to make them good buys - but buy them if you must. Then follow their advice. Making the Perfect Pitch: How to Catch a Literary Agent’s Eye, by Katharine Sands also gets good reviews, though I haven’t read it.

Now go finish your novel.

I might suggest finding a writers conference near you. They usually have a group of agents and even some publishers who you can pitch to. That is an excellent way of getting feedback cheaply.

My understanding is that agents want a query letter first - don’t send chapters until they ask for it. One agent showed some really hilarious query letters she got - the best thing is to be professional. From what they said, the outline and query letter are critical. The books I’ve seen on submitting spend a lot of time on this.

As for zoopursecatcher - if Katie Couric’s cookbook made a lot of money for the publisher, what’s your problem? If you don’t understand that agents and publishers are in the business to make money, not to massage the egos of aspiring writers, you’re not going to get very far. Opinions on what will sell and what is good differ, which is why you query lots of agents at once.

I must have accidentally given the wrong impression. I’m not stuck for an ending. I know exactly where I’m going with the plot, and my progress is steady. I’ll probably have the “bones” done in about five or six weeks and then the rest of the time will be devoted to re-writes.

Hey, gimmie a break. Some people like to work with good publishers given the chance.
If Lissa was never published before, and she had to turn to the small presses, she might as well choose a good one if the money wasn’t going to be right.
Agents are another story. Plenty of agencies charge a fee. I don’t suggest it. Not necessary.

Sorry Lissa. You are writing a novel. EM is right about this, except some of the small presses use distribution services of university presses.
You should check with one of those books on finding an agent or self-publishing, but remember that an agent gets a cut of moola, if that matters to you.

I wasn’t clear. If you haven’t finished the book when somebody wants to see the whole manuscript, it will seem to them as if you are having trouble finishing it. At best.

Although there have been exceptions that made it to print, it’s always the best policy to have the book done before you start querying.

There are legitimate fee-charging agencies out there, but very few, as charging fees (rather than taking a percentage and charging for some office expenses after, and only after the book is sold) will keep an agent out of most of the professional associations. As a first timer, what honest fee-paying agencies exist are likely to be out of your scope, and the ones who will be interested in you will be mostly scams.
Exapno Mapcase is right in all he’s posted. If you’re baffled where to get started, I’d suggest purchasing the latest edition of Writer’s Market. It will have the currently accepted practice for submitting outlined in it, and of course, it’s primarily a huge listing of publishers.

Once your book is finished (an established author can sometimes get away with not having the book 100% finished, but an unknown can’t), read through the listings and find the publishers who publish things that are similar to your novel. If there are many or a few highly recogniseable, big-name publishers who accept unagented submissions, follow the guidelines in their listing to query them directly about your novel. If the good publishers only want agented submissions, then you want to start looking up and querying agents who represent the sort of thing you have written.

DO NOT pay anyone to try and get your book into print (including book doctors or “marketers”, much less agents and vanity presses) and DO NOT try to pull a fast one on publishers by going against their guidelines regarding submission format or simultaneous queries. Dishonesty can cost you a potential career, and if you don’t respect the people you’ll be working with, you shouldn’t try to work with them in the first place.

I would start by reading a blog like Miss Snark:

She’s an agent and has a ton ton ton of good advice. Then follow her links.

Besides, MS is one of the funniest blogs around.

Never pay an agent. And go for an agent rather than a publisher.

Unfortunately, I write university-press nonfiction, which is a whole different animal when it comes to getting published . . .

Do you revise as you go, or do you write and revise later? If the latter, unless your first draft is a lot better than mine, you may be underestimating rewrite time. Some parts were good, and some made me think “where was my head when I wrote this crap?” and some parts I had to replot when I forced myself to face an implausibility.

I re-write as I go. Some days, I don’t feel like writing, so I’ll use that time on revisions instead.

I’ve been working more-or-less steadily on it since October. In that time, I’ve written around 290 single spaced pages in Word. (10pt Times New Roman font.)* I estimate that there’s around fifty pages left, but it could edge up around 75.

  • All I’ve been reading says that most editors/agents prefer manuscripts to be 12 pt. and double-spaced, but I’ll wait to do that until the very end.

And in a monospaced font, like Courier New.

Vonda’s manuscript preparation advice is solid for any sort of fiction submission. The example is for a short story, but subsequent chapters in a novel start in similar fashion.

More good advice is found on the menu page. Again, manuscript prep applies to any style of fiction (and most nonfiction) submissions.

Miss Snark says, I think, that she doesn’t care at all so long as it’s readable.

But I think she’d throw up some red flags about the length of your novel. How many words is it (according to the Word word counter)?

I just went into all the files and did a WordCount. The answer suprised me.

The total: 171,927.

Can you split it in two parts? Take a look at this post:
I’ve seen this point echoed by other agent bloggers.

Not without destroying the entire premise.

I’m not going to start hacking yet. Margaret George and Diana Gabaldon were both first-time authors whose books were massive.

171,000 words is going to be a problem to sell. You’ll either have to cut a lot or split it into two books.

In any event – and I’m sure Miss Snark will back me up on this (since I’m quoting her) – it’s too early to consider an agent or how to get your novel published.

Get it finished first.

If an agent is interested, he or she will want to see the manuscript. Since the turnaround time between query and response varies from near-instantaneous (if submitting by e-mail) to a month or two, you need to get the manuscript finished to the best of your ability.

Don’t even worry about the word length right now (despite my earlier comment). Since you’re already in this deep, you might as well finish the job and send it out. Let the agents’ responses tell you what you need to know.

In the meantime, check out Miss Snark’s blog. Her archives are being indexed, so you should be able to find the advice you need there.